Facebook announced today the acquisition of virtual reality technology company Oculus VR. Engineers on Hacker News are up in arms about what it means for Facebook, a media company, to own a leader in the future of communication.
The idea of immersive gaming is truly at our doorstep, and Star Trek like holodecks are on the horizon.
Zuckerberg writes, “After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”
One Hacker New users said, “Nah, I’d rather not, thank you. I prefer to actually visit my doctor where facebook doesn’t get all the data about it.”
This is the core question about this amazing technology. Immersive virtual reality tech can really transport you to another place and make it feel like you are in the room with others. Imagine working from home, but actually being in the office just by putting on glasses. Imagine collaborating with people all over the world, and transporting to places and truly experiencing them, just by putting on goggles.
Here’s the question that I am wondering though, “What will marketing look like in a virtual reality world?”
I guess only time will tell, but I have a few theories. For starters, imagine searching to buy a new car on Google, and than putting on your glasses, and being in the showroom, testing out different cars, and chatting in person with a salesman.
Imaging searching to buy new shoes, testing out different ones in zappos virtual reality store, and having them send the specs to your 3d printer. You basically just shopped in the mall and walked away with instant gratification by just putting on goggles.
Imagine researching a company, and instead of reading text on a page on their website, putting a real face behind the experience and visiting their offices.
Lead generation can completely change. Right now, there is a lot of anonymity with leadgen websites. You don’t really know who you are dealing with. That’s why seeing things like social proof, or pictures of the people that work there add a personalized trust factor that makes you more comfortable doing business with them. Add a video, and your trust goes up tremendously. Imagine though meeting face to face, just by putting on goggles.
The world of marketing can be turned upside down.
What will be really interesting is creating virtual reality marketing automation. We are in a digital world where the smartest companies are already offering completely personalized experiences on their websites based on your behavior past and present. I wonder how that personalization will materialize if virtual reality really becomes the new way to communicate.
Facebook is betting that this is the future of communication. Mark Zuckerberg writes, “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”
The timeline for this fantasy world just moved up from a 15 year horizon to a 5 year horizon with Facebooks resources behind it. Since Facebook’s core feature is connecting the world, this investment is very much aligned.
5 years away is much closer than you think. It’s time to start thinking about how to win in a virtual world.
To get started, here are a few thoughts and tips…
1. Start thinking about how to turn a customers interaction with your brand into an experience. An experience so compelling that customers would rather experience dealing with your company over a competitors. You should already be doing this, but this will literally help the cream rise to the top.
2. Every innovation will be driven by whats best for your users. This means that the level of transparency required to compete in the future will be much greater than it is today. After all, they can just put on Goggles, and visit your office or storefront.
3. Every new communication platform brings with it new efficiencies, and has its own limitations. The same way native ads are winning the day across new social platforms, native virtual reality experiences will win the marketing battle.
4. We are already in a world where the lines between media, and advertising are merging. Marketing is becoming less and less recognizable as brands learn to satisfy their customers media and informational needs instead of depending on third party media companies. The media companies of the future (and the ones thriving today) are communication infrastructure companies, not content publishers. Brands are publishing the content, and communication channels and native ads are distributing that content.
5. As every new communication channel and technology emerges, it creates a new category, but the old still sticks around. People still use radios, they still use feature phones, they still use fax machines, and they still use desktop computers. While much of this tech will slowly become deeper integrated into our lives, there will still be much of the world living in the past. Don’t forget about them.
6. Human nature never changes. It’s packaging may alter based on circumstances, but human nature is universal, and has been the same since the caveman days. This won’t change. Ease of use will win out over cool features. Convenience will win out over quality. status quo will withstand change for as long as possible, and ego will drive the day!
7. The big winners in tomorrows economy and world will be the ones that deliver the most satisfying customer experience. Focus all your energy today on choreographing the best experience and you will easily adapt to changing tides.
You want my prediction. This won’t replace existing communication, it will augment it, some of the time, for some of the people. As people discover these new technologies, some things will stay the same, and some will change. People will still want their privacy and they will still want to communicate and engage in whatever format they are most comfortable in.
My advice: stay grounded, but keep looking forward!